Paganism, or Not Paganism

jones_interview

From Peter Jones book, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2015:

Our Worldview Alternatives: Oneism and Twoism

I claim, with the Bible, that there are only two worldviews—one based on the ultimacy of the creation, and the other based on the ultimate, prior, and all-determining existence of the Creator. Creation and Creator are the only alternatives as divine objects of worship—the only possible explanations of the world we know. The conflict is between two mutually exclusive, antithetical belief systems. Our choice will affect the answers we give to those two important questions: Is there something rather than nothing? And if there is something, what is that something like?
For the sake of simplicity, I call these two alternatives Oneism and Twoism.1 They are not mere variations on a general spiritual theme, but the only two timeless, mutually contradictory ways to think about the world. In these two terms (Oneism and Twoism), there is a universe of difference. These are the only two destinations on the tracks we can travel; let’s map them out in more detail now.

Oneism

Oneism sees the world as self-creating (or perpetually existing) and self-explanatory. Everything is made up of the same stuff, whether matter, spirit, or a mixture. There’s one kind of existence, which, in one way or another, we worship as divine (or of ultimate importance), even if that means worshiping ourselves. Though there is apparent differentiation and even hierarchy, all distinctions are, in principle, eliminated, and everything has the same worth. This is a “homocosmology,” a worldview based on sameness. The classic term for this is “paganism,” worship of nature.

Twoism

The only other option is a world that is the free work of a personal, transcendent God, who creates ex nihilo (from nothing). In creating, God was not constrained by or dependent on any preexisting conditions. There is nothing exactly like this in our human experience of creating; our creative acts are analogous to God’s. There is God, and there is everything that is not-God—everything created and sustained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This worldview celebrates otherness, distinctiveness. We only worship as divine the distinct, personal, triune Creator, who placed essential distinctions within the creation. This is a “heterocosmology,” a worldview based on otherness and difference. This is often called “theism.”2
Both of these worldviews, whether implicitly assumed or explicitly embraced, require the same fundamental certainty. In other words, if one is ultimately true, the other must be false. In the moral universe of the Bible, knowledge is never neutral. That’s why Paul calls these worldviews “the truth” and “the lie” (Rom 1:25).

Endnotes:

1 I am not inventing anything other than a simplified terminology. Other descriptions of the two options include biblical faith or paganism, monism or theism, or the Creator/creature distinction.

2 If this is the biblical worldview, how does one relate it to Rabbinic Judaism and Islam, whose followers also claim to respect the Bible (though in very different ways)? There is only one pure Oneist—Satan—and one pure Twoist—Jesus Christ. Judaism and Islam have a defective view of biblical Twoism. Their denial of the Trinity leaves them with a transcendent yet impersonal God (an attempt at Twoism), who ultimately depends upon his relationship with human beings in order to constitute his personhood (which ends up in Oneism by a circuitous route). Rabbinic scholar Abraham Heschel (1907–1972) rightly critiqued Islam for seeing God as “unqualified Omnipotence,” who can never be “the Father of mankind,” and thus is radically impersonal. See Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper, 1962), 292, 311. Yet postbiblical Judaism cannot escape Heschel’s critique entirely. The medieval rabbi Maimonides, for example, also confessed an “absolutely transcendent God who is independent of humanity.” See Reuven Kimelman, “The Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel,” First Things (Dec 2009). On the other hand, Kimelman notes that Heschel commits the opposite error to that of Maimonides (and Islam), namely that of making God dependent on man in a covenantal relationship that both God and man need in order to be who they are. Heschel adopts the rabbinical concept that it is human witness that in some sense makes God real (Kimelman, “The Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel”). Once more, God is dependent upon humanity. This is the classic dilemma of a monotheism without the Trinity. Because Heschel does not believe God to be triune, God depends on man to be personal and therefore cannot be “Wholly Other” in relation to creation.
Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2015), 12–13.

When the Church Loses Its Saltiness

“Ecclesiastical structures that depart from the faith do so by the loss of distinctiveness, the gradual conformation of their thought and life to that of the larger community. Sociological observations confirm that, by and large, the religious institutions of the United States do not teach values that are distinctive to their own traditions but rather use religious terminology that ratifies the values of the broader society. There is little to distinguish what the churches say from what other institutions teach, and we are left therefore with only an indistinctive religion-in-general.

. . .

Thus, the master of the American church is likely to be whatever cultural or intellectual fad has gained the ascendancy. Christology displays this tendency when the Gospels are used selectively to show that the ‘real Jesus’ was an exemplar of the American middle class, or perhaps a guerrilla fighter, a social democrat, or a model of psychological fitness. That is a recipe for intellectual and spiritual sterility, for by accepting the dead end of the reigning assumption, the church absorbs whatever conclusions ‘enlightened’ people consider current. In sociological terms, the church functions as just another means used by the political and social establishment to integrate society’s values into the next generation. The support it receives depends on the extent to which it uncritically transmits values. Its passivity makes it acceptable and ensures its irrelevance. C. E. M. Joad saw the Church of England being transformed by this process into a ‘mere purveyor of vague ethico-religious uplift.’”

Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983. Pp. 235-37

Only Two Worldviews

Peter Jones on Worldview

“I claim, with the Bible, that there are only two worldviews—one based on the ultimacy of the creation, and the other based on the ultimate, prior, and all-determining existence of the Creator. Creation and Creator are the only alternatives as divine objects of worship—the only possible explanations of the world we know. The conflict is between two mutually exclusive, antithetical belief systems. Our choice will affect the answers we give to those two important questions: Is there something rather than nothing? And if there is something, what is that something like?”

Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2015), 12.